Review by funderbunkle
"*Insert catchy tagline here*"
Before I start writing the review, I want to make one thing known:
This is my first Resident Evil game.
Yes, this is my first Resident Evil game.
I'm a nub, I know.
Anyways, with that being said, I have a different take on this game than a lot of people. I do know the general gist of the RE series backstory, but not much aside from that. You could say that I've never been a huge fan of scary stuff, but I've also heard a lot of stuff about the controls of the RE series that have kinda turned me off to it.
Anyways, on with the show.
After reading many a glowing review for RE4, I decided on a whim to go out and pick it up to see what all the fuss was about. It was $20 well spent, and I definitely would've paid full price for this game without hesitation, and these glowing reviews were definitely well-deserved.
It plays amazingly well, and its controls and nuances are simple, yet deep, what I consider to be the hallmark of a truly great game. The controls are simple to pick up and become reflex quite quickly. The real depth comes in knowing what body part of an enemy to aim for, when to aim for it, and how it will affect your ability to deal with the rest of the swarm of baddies pawing at your throat. When you fight, you need to be aware of what's going on all around you or you die. It's that simple. This game has forced me to think on a larger scale when I fight, which wasn't something I did as much when I played through the Half-Life or Halo series. When you fight, you have the freedom to aim at and damage limbs, torso, or head, and this all plays out into your relatively limited ammo supply as well as number of enemies coming at you. Later in the game, you get a major curveball thrown at you right as it seems like you've begun to pull off headshots with a reasonable degree of accuracy and efficiency...it doesn't outright negate the value of a clean headshot, but it certainly does add to the challenge quite a bit.
This game also showed me what the "survival" aspect is really all about. I'm used to wiping out all the enemies around me, and not moving on until I do so. Resident Evil 4 doesn't always let you do that. Part of RE4's combat system is knowing when to run and when to fight, and although it sounds simple it adds a whole new dynamic to the gameplay. Leon doesn't aim perfectly straight, either, and that adds another layer of tension in a firefight when you've got an enemy's head in your sights and then it's not there anymore. Sniping is enjoyable and incredibly satisfying when you can find opportunities for it. There's also another alternate close quarters system using a knife and a totally cool Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the face (it's especially worthy of the Chuck Norris title when it explodes an enemy's head), and they come in quite handy when you're getting swarmed by two or three guys and you've just run out of ammo. There are some other nifty context-sensitive evasion maneuvers, and you wanna pull these off as fast as you can because your health DOES go down when you're doing them.
The game isn't impossible, but it definitely isn't easy either. You'll definitely find yourself staring at the words "You Are Dead" quite a few times. RE4 is also quite long by action game standards, and my initial foray clocked in at a little under 19 hours. Thankfully, the fighting is deep and involving enough that it never gets tedious, boring, or annoying. I was rather engrossed the whole way through.
The weapons quite simply rock. They're all lovingly detailed and realistically animated (for example, the slide on a pistol will lock back when the last round is fired and cycle back forward when it's reloaded, but when there is still a round in the chamber and it's being reloaded the slide stays in place, just like in real life). Leon's reloading animations are awesome to look at...they're some of the most realistic I've seen in a third-person shooter; they're done in such a way that they give the weapons a real feeling of weight and mass. They can be upgraded to near-uber status, but you won't likely get there until the end parts of the game...upgrades are pretty expensive. This game doesn't just throw massive amounts of cash at you, you need to be economical with your money and careful with your purchases, which is very hard, because even early on you have a cornucopia of firearm goodness to choose from, and most of the more powerful weapons are held just out of your financial grasp. But then, when you CAN afford them...hoo, boy.
Leon is an awesome main character. He's more than capable at what he does, and has all sorts of cool gymnastic evasion moves (pulled off at certain in-game prompts)
Relatively early on into the game, you're given an escort mission. Normally, I loathe and despise escort missions beyond all else. In this game, the escort mission was actually...fun! Ashley (who, I'm suspecting, is voiced by the same voice actress who does Cindy on the Jimmy Neutron cartoon), while vulnerable, was also sometimes intelligent, and she'd stick by me when the action headed up, and having spots to hide her in when the going got rough really was a wise choice made by the developers. One word of semi-spoilerish warning: never attempt to take on an El Gigante when you're escorting Ashley. It's not fun to watch the President's pretty little girl get mashed into a pulp by the cousin of one of The Lord of the Rings' Cave Trolls.
Graphically, I'd argue that RE4 is the most beautiful title on the 'Cube, and it beats out anything the Xbox or PS2 has to offer as well. The level of detail is just astounding. The color palette is intentionally dreary and drab. The fog effects add a subtle creepiness and tension to the overall feel of the game. The locations are all modeled realistically, and they give you the feel of really being in some secluded, chilly Eastern Bloc countryside in the middle of Autumn. The rain effects are breathtaking. The lighting engine is absolutely gorgeous. Lightning flickers and illuminates and reflects off of certain surfaces with an eerie realism.
The Character models are astounding as well. Lifelike (or lifeless, in the case of the baddies you deal with), detailed (you can actually see all the individual strands of Leon's hair!), impeccably animated. It's hard to look at this game in motion and not drool. The water, while pretty, isn't quite as good as Half-Life 2's (my current leader for "prettiest in-game water), though. But, RE4 not only shows off what really can be done on the 'Cube's hardware, it pushes it to its absolute limit. With all these beautiful graphics and amazing sound (more on that later), it's amazing that this game seldom, if ever, dips below 30 FPS. RE4 is still a better-looking game than most of XB360's launch titles.
The ambient noises are all just right. They drop you into whatever area you're in. All of the sound effects are nearly pitch-perfect. Thunder crackles. Chainsaws grind and revv and rattle you to the bone with an indimidating and yet familiar, very realistic growl (the fact that the chainsaw guys seem to absorb bullets with a spongelike tenacity definitely adds to that intimidation as well). The guns make all the right pops and booms. The voice acting is believable and immersive, and breathes life into the characters. The one real gripe I have about the sound is the horrible amount of compression that can be heard with the voices, and I'm kinda surprised that it hasn't been mentioned in any of the reviews I've read. The voices suffer, sometimes quite harshly, from compression distortion. It never gets to the point where it's impossible to understand, but it is detracting to hear a flat, slightly fuzzy voice amidst all the crystal-clear sound effects. But, I suppose, in order to keep the framerate managable and the load times the way they are (impossible to notice), a few sacrificies have to be made somewhere.
The storyline is engrossing, with some neat (at least, I thought) little twists and turns. I'm not gonna go into much more detail than that, because I don't wanna spoil it. You'll have to find out for yourself.
The cinema scenes use the in-game engine, which is so good that they practically come off as CG cinematics (and would be in lesser titles).
RE4 also is one of those rare single-player games that's actually fun to watch. My friends and I all took turns when I got it, and it was just as much fun to watch as it was to play.
If you own a 'Cube and haven't bought this game yet, get it. Now. If you don't have a 'Cube, get one and then get this game. It's worth every penny. A lot of people have said that it evolves the Resident Evil series and takes it in a (right) new direction, and it does it so brilliantly. I'm not able to say that kind of thing, not having played a RE game before this, but I will say that it's brilliant.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/25/06
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